How Google Decides Where To Rank A Website

April 10, 2014

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Website Ranking Factors By Google

Google uses complex algorithms to analyse every one of the 60 trillion web pages stored and categorised in its index and determines each one’s relevance to a query being searched by a user in Google. The Google search algorithms use over 200 individual factors to assess those web pages, which include a number of on-site and off-site signals.

If you are wondering why, or why not your website is ranking for a particular keyword term,  I’ve collated some of the most important rank influencing signals which may hold the clue;-

Domain Level Signals:

Keyword in Domain Name

  • If all else is equal a domain that contains the keyword being searched may have an advantage over a domain that does not contain the keyword. For example, for the search “coffee” the domain may have an edge.

Page Level Signals:

Keyword in Title Tag

  • The Title Tag is an SEO tag that Google view as an important rank determining signal. Like the title of a book, it should clarify to browsers what the website page’s content is all about. The Title Tag is invariably shown as the headline to your listing in the search results, so including the keyword in the Title Tag also confirms to browsers that your website matches their search.

Keyword on title tag

Content Relevancy

  • The content of the website page should match closely the search being made. It is helpful if the keyword is mentioned appropriately in the content, however, it is not essential. More important is that the theme of the content provides a relevant answer and closely matches the keyword being searched. A page that answers the search query more effectively will be at an advantage.

Depth of Content

  • Generally, longer content will edge out shorter content in the search results as longer content allows deeper responses to search queries. Whilst longer content is more likely to have stronger relevancy signals, there is no ideal length. The content that best answers a search query is the one that takes precedence.

Image Optimisation

  • Interesting content worthy of ranking will probably include images. Google is not easily able to identify (if at all) the picture in an image, so it is important to describe what the images on your site are by using the image alt tags. A picture of coffee beans may use the image alt tag “roasted coffee beans”

How Google Decides Where To Rank A Website

Site Level Signals:

Site Freshness

  • How often a site is updated is an important rank influencing factor. A site that publishes content infrequently will be deemed less current and relevant than a site that publishes content frequently. In the past, it was important to publish as often as possible in order to increase the number of relevant pages on your site. However since Google Hummingbird was introduced the search engine better understands the semantics of your site and thus, more importance is placed now on quality as opposed to frequency.

Contact Information

  • Google want to better understand who is behind a site in order to determine its authenticity. A site that contains appropriate amounts of contact information on its contact page and elsewhere on the site will be at an advantage.

Back Link Signals:

Aged Domains

  • The number and quality of other websites linking to a site are still Google’s best judge of a website’s reputation. Links from aged domains will contribute more towards a site’s high ranking than links from young domains.

Link Location

Linking Page Authority

  • A link from an established and authoritative page gives a stronger ranking signal than a link from an unestablished page. Further explained, a page that itself has many links to it from quality websites will influence the rank of the next website more strongly when it links out to it.

Social Signals:

  • How many times a website is liked on Facebook or tweeted via Twitter are confirmatory signals to Google that the website is good. Directly social signals may not influence rank but it is likely that the sharing of a website via social media sites does contribute to it’s ranking.

Were you able to identify any signals from the list above that may be holding your website back in the results?

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James Reynolds

About the author: James Reynolds is passionate about helping you get more traffic and sales from search engines.


About the author: Karl Tablante is the Inbound Marketing Manager for SEO Sherpa, a top-rated organic SEO agency that lives and breathes all things search.

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